Farmers’ continuous commitment to adopting more sustainable agricultural practices is reaping significant benefits such as healthier soil and cleaner water. But, despite these successes, there is more work ahead to juggle the science and economic factors that must be blended and balanced as the speed of change increases.
Finding the best path and striking that balance is the central theme of a water quality and ag nutrient meeting being held in Bloomington, Illinois this week. The meeting brings together National Corn Growers Association staff and state corn staff representing Illinois, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio.
The nuts and bolts portion of the meeting covered topics such as: assessing current water quality initiatives; costs and benefits of current practices; educating key thought leaders and the public; and farm bill proposals.
One reoccurring theme was finding ways to keep farmers focused and motivated to continue making these positive changes in the current weak agricultural economy. Farmers are facing tough economic times with many corn farmers, specifically, facing corn prices below the cost of production for the last four growing seasons.
During the meeting, participants agreed upon the importance of: showcasing success stories of farmers pioneering new techniques; expanding and promoting outside cost sharing incentives; working with all available partners with common goals; and documenting the positive changes in detail for government regulatory bodies.
Suzy Friedman, the Environmental Defense Fund senior director of agricultural sustainability, reinforced the group’s thinking that there is a growing list of tools available to help farmers achieve their goals but more data is needed. The good news is this too is changing in part because of emerging partnerships. EDF is having great success expanding their network which includes organizations like NCGA, Field to Market, Ag Retailers Association, the American Society of Agronomists and the Soil Health Partnership.
CommonGround is a group of farmers connecting with consumers through conversations about science and research and personal stories about food and misinformation surrounding farming. Supported by the NCGA and state corn organizations.
The Soil Health Partnership (SHP) is a farmer-led initiative that fosters transformation in agriculture through improved soil health. Administered by NCGA the partnership has more than 220 working farms enrolled in 16 states. SHP’s mission is to utilize science and data to partner with farmers who are adopting conservation agricultural practices that improve the economic and environmental sustainability of the farm.
The Corn Utilization and Technology Conference (CUTC) is a biennial event happening this June. Learn more.